Fighting for a dream still unfulfilled

The shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr. looms large over inaugural weekend. The holiday celebrating Dr. King happens to coincide with Inauguration Day. A new King memorial resides on the Tidal Basin on the opposing side of the National Mall from the spot where the 44th President will take the oath of office on King’s own Bible.

The Inauguration takes place of course in the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia. The residents of the majority-black District aren’t living the full-color version of King’s dream. The District’s license plates say, “Taxation without Representation,” and for many, obtaining statehood for DC is a campaign for full citizenship. “We have been a colony of the rest of the states of this country,” said a speaker at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Walk, which celebrated the civil rights hero on January 19. “We need to become a state, the state of New Columbia.”

Statehood wasn’t the only thing on the minds of marchers remembering Dr. King. The event kicked off in Anacostia, an area of Southeast DC which suffers significant social and economic problems. With high unemployment, half of all its residents collect food assistance, and household income and wealth stagnate at the bottom of the pile in a city that ranks as one of the highest in wealth inequality.

It perpetually competes for resources. For example, the community is resisting the proposed closure of 15 schools in the District, which they claim disproportionately affects black residents.

Another speaker decried that, while the declining violent crime rate was a good trend, 88 murders in the District in 2012 “is still too many.” Several others assailed the high incarceration rate of young black men–one in three black men will do time in their lifetimes–as a devastating indicator of racial inequality.

Martin Luther King Jr said, “Let us be dissatisfied.” Black communities like Anacostia are communities is distress, not because of the moral failings of individuals or certain cultures, as conservatives claim. It’s because the structural edifice of our society remains racist.

We Act Radio: Community-based progressive media

Ron Pinchman, Alan Rosenblatt, and David Shuster

Is the future of progressive media located next door?

Part of it may be. On a hot-for-April Saturday afternoon, people dropped in for the open house at their neighborhood radio station–We Act Radio. Just a stroll down Anacostia’s Martin Luther King Avenue–which also hosted art festival Lumen8 that day–the station’s small office brimmed over with people sipping drinks and animated by the on-air discussion blaring from speakers. Scenes and slogans from civil rights and labor history projected onto the only wall free from revolutionary banners and station-related promos.

We Act Radio went live early this year online and on 1480AM. Local vision and talent–Cliff Schecter, Kymone Freeman and Alex Lawson–started it up and attracted some high-powered friends to help it along, including former MSNBC anchor David Shuster, who hosts a 3-hour show every Saturday. Co-founder and program director Kymone Freeman calls it “the little station who could.”

It may rely heavily on syndicated programming, but the emphasis is still on engaging the community.  “We get a lot of foot traffic,” Kymone says [to Mediaite]. “We welcome it. Being on Martin Luther King Avenue is symbolic of our mission to give people a voice, to continue the work that Dr. King started.”

Kymone Freeman says Shuster has “put his credibility on the line” by supporting and hosting a show on an outspoken and upstart outlet, but Shuster disagrees, saying he doesn’t buy into the “unbiased” point of view for journalists. “Our role should be to report the facts and let the chips fall where they may. We have to follow the facts wherever they may take us,” he said.

His current boss Current TV is extremely supportive, and if anything his colleagues are envious that he gets to be so involved with the community.

The name of the station sums up the mission. “The role of the station is to say, here’s what the facts are, what can we do about it?” Shuster says. “In traditional news, we talk about the budget, politics,  but the difference here is, we say, here’s the news, and here’s what you can do about it.”

As an example, he cited the recent death of a baby left outside in the cold in DC. Instead of just reporting the incident as a tragedy, his show also discussed safe haven laws.

The Little Station That Could seems to be only one piece of the emerging network of progressive media shown on this chart created by In These Times. You know what they forgot? All the individuals efforts out there–the blogs (like yours truly), Tumblrs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Livestream feeds, and news aggregators.

Why are these important? Because we’re no longer content-swallowers. We’re content-producers: dreamers, creators, observers and analyzers–and we have a voice.

(Image by coolrevolution.net)

From In These Times (inthesetimes.com)